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A new type of neurotechnology has been shown to give back movement control to patients who suffered from cerebral strokes. Recently, the first two participants of the first in human study utilizing a spinal implant have shown improved strength and better movement following the insertion of the implant. While preliminary, the study shows great promise for the future of patients.
How does the implant work? Following a cerebral stroke, electrical signals travelling from the patients brain are often too weak to activate the nerves controlling certain extremities. For Heather Rendulic, it was her left arm and hand.
Once the spinal implant was implanted in her spinal cord, the researchers were able to stimulate the nerves and trigger movement. On the first day of testing, Heather was able to open and close her hand for the first time in nine years, as was reported on by the BBC. However, the experiment was designed to last for only a month – after which, the electrodes were removed and the beneficial stimulation was gone.
Researchers say the results give a glimpse into the future, where implants could make meaningful differences to people’s lives. The team believe the field could advance quickly as they are using technologies already approved for managing severe pain. But for now, it will take more clinical trials to work out who benefits and how to move the equipment from the laboratory to the home.
Dr Rubina Ahmed from the Stroke Association said: “The research is still in the early stages and surgical implants may not be suitable for everyone. Non-invasive stimulation methods are also being tested which could be used by a wider range of people.”
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